Oliver L. Austin Jr., "Ickky", was born in May of 1903 in Tuckahoe, NY. He was the son of a surgeon. He was married to Edythe, with whom, he had three children. Dr. Austin was an ornithologist, who died (at the age of 85) in Florida. He fulfilled his academic career by studying ornithology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Since 1929 he was the director and co-founder of the Austin Ornithological Research Station in Wellfleet. In 1930 he worked for the Bureau of Biological Survey in Minnesota. In 1931 he was associated with both the American Ornithological Union and the Explorers Club. He was an undergraduate from Wesleyan University, who obtained a doctorial degree from Harvard University. Dr. Austin served in the World War II Navy, and in the Allied Military in Japan. In 1948 he wrote the book "Birds of Korea", and in 1961, he wrote a study, "Birds of the World", and from 1968-1977, he worked as an editor at the AUK.
The book was well written and organized. It had good quality images. The purpose of the book was to inform and describe the various classifications of birds that exist in the world, and indeed, the author was able to achieve this throughout the book, in particular, in the foreword. However, there were a few grammatical errors and calculating errors the heights of the birds. There was also a limited glossary as well as little information (in terms of distribution, characteristics and habits) being presented about the birds which were spoken of. Since this class deals primarily with the natural history of Grenada, the book should have been centered more on Grenada's classification of birds, and there should have been a future outlook for at least those birds living in the Caribbean. Students should read this book because it is unique; it places special emphasis on and gives an in-depth understanding of the families and classifications of birds, and it is very simple and easy to follow. The target audience is persons interested in, and who are familiar with, the various types of birds, their families, and the classifications they receive, and so would have an interest in acquiring more information about the type of relationship that exists between these birds and their families. The book is suitable for the general audience as both scientific and common names were given for each bird. It contained a descriptive and very informative writing style, and it was a field guide to the classification of birds.
According to the author (O.L.A., Jr), this book gives a sound understanding of '34 orders ( 29 living, 5 fossil) and 185 families (150 living, 35 fossil), which were classified into 9,600 known species (8,700 living, 900 fossil) of birds in the world.' Birds are said to have evolved in the early Mesozoic period, which is over 150 million years ago. These birds are said to have originated from running or tree-climbing dinosaurs. For many birds, one of the classes of vertebrates or what is referred to as the 'aves' are favored the most by most humans. These 'aves' are broken up into 'taxa', species, genus, family (idea), and lastly, orders (iformes). This book will proceed to further explain these birds in terms of their characteristics, distribution and habits so that one will be able to simply and clearly define and identify any family of bird. It is important to note that all birds are unique. The birds discussed in the book originates from seven faunal regions such as: neotropical, oriental, Australian and oceanic.
A bird is 'a warm-blooded vertebrate with a four chambered heart, scaly legs and feet. A bird is covered with feathers, and has a skeleton designed for flying' (OLA., Jr.). However, not all birds can fly, and as a result, they are called running birds, as they do not have a keel on the breastbone. This book places special attention on five extinct orders and families of birds and 28 non-extinct ones. The earliest fossil of birds is now extinct and is called Archaeopteryx. It belonged to the upper Jurassic and had a reptilian look. Added to this, there are four other orders and families of birds that are extinct: the Hesperornis, the Moas, the Elephant birds and the Ichthyornis. Although the fossils of birds are very few, scientists have been able to recognize 1750 species from what was left from the fossils; 850 of them exist presently and their ancestry can be traced back to 2 million years ago, while the other 900 of them are fossils. The smallest primitive running bird is the Kiwis bird, and it belonged to the Apterygiformes order. It is 3 -9 pounds and 1 foot tall. Whilst the tallest birds belong to the Ratite Birds; the Ostrich belonged to the Struthioniformes order (8 feet) and the Emu belonged to the Casuariiformes order (6 feet) tall. The most modern of the orders and families is called the perching birds (Passeriformes order), woodpeckers and allies (Piciformes order). However, the largest bird family is the Perching bird and it belonged to the Passeriformes order (60 families, 5,200 species and three fifths of all birds that are alive) and the smallest is the Collies and the Trogons and they belonged to the Coliiformes and the Trogoniformes order; they had no families.
There are three sub classes of families of birds: Sauriurae, Odontoholcae, and Neornithes. They range from being extinct birds with and without teeth to living birds. There are also three super orders: neognathae, paleognathae, and ratite. These birds range from being perfect at flying, swimming and diving to flightless running birds. Birds eat a variety of food in order to live: vegetation, insects, small animals, fish, larvae, young white eggs, refuse from ships and animals as well as crustaceans. Some birds, such as the tropicbirds, even regurgitate their food for 5-8 weeks. Birds are able to live on the sea as well as on the land, and some birds can live in both environments: fresh water, beaches, coastal waters, lakes, forests, grasslands, plains. Birds also live in different temperatures: cold, tropics and subtropics. Birds are found all over the world ranging from central to South America to Africa, Australia to New Zealand and the Sub-Antarctic.
Birds have many features, webbed feet, waterproof coats (penguins), long but narrow pointed noses, tube like noses as well as short or long legs. Some have large wings; others have stretchy throat pouches (Pelecaniformes order). In addition, some have long necks, some are brightly colored, others are black and some are even white. Some birds have tails, others have none and some have toes in both the front and the back (Cuckoos and Allies); some have reversible toes (Mousebirds). Birds also vary in height; there are the small, medium and large sized birds.
In closing, the birds range from ground birds (tinamous,) to flightless running birds (Ratite bird), to birds who are masters at flying to birds who are skilled at swimming and diving (Carinate birds).
- Austin, O.L. (1985). A guide to bird classification: Families of birds. New York: Golden Press. Clench, M.H. & Hardy, J.W. (1989). In memoriam: Oliver. L. Austin Jr. The AUK, (106), 706-723.
- Amazon Images. (n.d.). Book cover. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from: http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/ciu/02/6e/4591228348a090cc2d5f4110.L._SL500_AA240_.jpg
- The New York Times. (1989). Oliver. L. Austin, 85, Ornithologist, is dead. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/04/obituaries/oliver-l-austin-85-ornithologist-is-dead.html?pagewanted=1